Just One Optimist’s Perspective

In 2011 I made my first ever trip to New York City. Growing up, we didn’t travel to places like that. For a small town Nebraska kid, it seemed out of reach, too expensive, and like somewhere I probably wouldn’t fit in. Working for DTN, a market data and analytics company I was asked by my boss if I would accompany him on a trip to meet partners and clients. That was a big deal to me at the time, and still is if I think about it. That trip and the profound impact the city had on me, solidified my career choice. I knew the moment I saw Time Square and Wall Street for the first time, that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I’d been trading stocks and options for several years by then, with minimal success. I bounced around from reading all of Jim Cramer’s books, (Confessions of a Street Addict is still among my favorite books ever) to CFA material, option theory textbooks, and everything in between. Addiction runs in my family, and I had found mine.

Addiction can ruin lives, it can tear families apart and leave lasting damage to the canvas of our very being. It can also give someone a reason to get up every day and fight for something they believe in. Luckily, it was the latter for me. No matter what was going on in life or how difficult things were, I would always say to myself, “At least the market is open tomorrow.” That ever-present challenge was there to lose myself in until life got better again.

This business of trading, investing, portfolio management, financial advising, or whatever you want to call it wears many people out. Many start trading, make a little money, lose a lot more, and then decide it can’t be done. I decided that myself 4 or 5 times before I made the decision that even if it couldn’t be done, I was going to stick with it anyway. For better or for worse, I was all in.

Fast forward ten years. I have a fairly well read blog, am a partner in an RIA, have clients who trust me with their financial well being, and still have that same passion for this business as I did all those years ago when I saw Wall Street for the very first time. It’s surreal sometimes if I give myself a moment to think about it. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not, and I’m having a blast.

If you find that one thing that drives you to get up every morning, give it everything you’ve got and don’t take it for granted. If you fail at it, try again. You might end up with a skill that can better your life or the lives of others. Speaking from experience, being able to somehow better the lives of others is infinitely more satisfying. So many success stories started with missteps and chances are yours will too. Find that something worth fighting for, and keep at it.

Optimists always win in the end, no matter how many trials and tribulations they go through. No matter how difficult the task, or how far out of reach it seems, if you aren’t afraid of failure, you have a good chance at success. And if you’re going through hell, keep going… the market will always be open tomorrow.

Trent J. Smalley, CMT